Thursday, November 13, 2008

An American in Paris.... or Her Friend?

The Hottie and the Nottie
Directed by Tom Putnam
Starring: Paris Hilton, Joel Moore, Christine Lakin, Johann Urb, Adam Kulbersh, Greg Wilson
Grade: D+

If asked to describe Paris Hilton in three words (expletives excluded) one might come up with something along the lines of: superficial, shallow, self-important. The Hottie and the Nottie is all of these things -- the cast list is littered with characters such as "cheesy guy" and "extremely unattractive guy" for a start -- but it's not because of Hilton, who plays the routine and frankly passive character of the 'beauty' with a nonchalant smugness. Her presence in the film feels just that; a participation rather than a performance, and so she can hardly be at fault for what the film doesn't do right, which is rather a lot.

For all the accusations of anti-feminism and shallow politics (largely deserved) Hottie at least recognises its characters' prioritisation of appearance, and (dare I say it?) the vanity of the L.A. lifestyle. The first scene of the film contains an advertisement for abs-toning
equipment for example, and is perhaps the closest it gets to satirising the pre-dominantly shallow goals of its hapless male would-be predators. But no, The Hottie and the Nottie is crucially unable to be as offensive an exercise in gender politics as you may have heard, because its men: the Hilton-obsessed Nate, his token overweight best friend Arno, and former model Johann, the chiselled threat to Nate's quest, all feel like lost puppies. It feels as if Hottie wants us to feel this collective sense of comradeship between the guys and it's probably a fault of the script that we don't, but both the "Hottie" and the "Nottie" (played by Christine Lakin) fulfill their roles in the title of the film by emerging as the surprisingly decisive members of the debacle.

Still, the tiny successes of the film remain a consolation to the filmmakers' inability to create a lively, interesting, flexible setting for its events. But whether it be a beach, boat, or yoga mat that has to be a part of Paris' pouting, the lack of a convincing or genuine romance is enough to deter even the most die-hard of rom-com fans from venturing near a Tom Putnam film again. His actors range from mediocre to ineffectual; the attempts at comedy are often grotesque (I'm talking infected toenails), and when the half-time "You're not who I thought you were" scene arrives, and Hilton's irritated Cristabel spits out the words "It's over" to a forlorn looking Nate, you'll hope she's talking about the film.

The simple design of Hottie's poster illustrates Hilton's half-naked posing as "hot" and Lakin's paper-bagged head as "not". Trust me, it doesn't pay to grin and bear it. The Hottie and the Nottie is best experienced under a cover of darkness, and preferably with earplugs.

No comments: